She saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and fled from it.
Who hurt you?
He sizes her up. Not in a rude way. In fact, he looks more confused than offended. She doesn’t understand the question. A lot of people have hurt her. Is she supposed to name one of them or assign them a team name?
Why are you always so rude? You are so quick to jump to the defensive.
Of course, she is defensive. Most of her life feels like a series of well-timed attacks against her sanity. Granted, she always comes out alive on the other side, she has some bruises.
An affinity for rudeness, those are her battle scars. Or maybe her armor. She doesn’t mind it. Doesn’t mind it one bit.
I’m leaving. Call me when you are ready to talk.
He reaches into his brown leather wallet and begins to count some bills. The wallet is worn more on the left side than the right. He is a lefty.
I’ll pay the bill.
At least this is one statement that shouldn’t offend him.
Or maybe not.
Because I can?
She can. When she isn’t in school, she works her ass off just so she never has to ask anyone for anything. It’s not so much that she needs it. It’s for a rainy day. And her pride. After all, she almost missed her final exams four years ago because her dad had ‘promised’ to pay the registration fee. Never again.
I can too
I want to
Not this again
Just leave, I’ll pay
He sighs and saunters to the door of the tiny café and out into the warm, sunny day. Everyone within a mile radius is staring open-mouthed at her. She frowns at them – can’t a woman pay her bills anymore? and picks up her silver strap sling bag from the floor. Time to leave.
The farthest seat at the back of the matatu is unoccupied. At least one thing is going her way today. She sits by the window and plugs in her earphones.
She doesn’t care for music. Not as much as she did a few years ago. She’s never known what changed. Maybe it’s because music failed her when she needed to block out the sounds of her dad pounding into another woman some dark years ago. Who knows?
Her phone chirps. Texts from Royal. And Kyle.
R: Sorry I left in a foul mood. Just call me when you’re ready. Take care.
K: Hey, you coming?
She slips the phone into her bag and hands the conductor a note.
Keep the change.
She isn’t trying to hurt Royal. She was, in fact, curious about why two assumedly sane people would name their son Royal. She hadn’t known it was a soft spot. If she had, she wouldn’t have asked.
Maybe that’s not what got him riled up, though. He seemed pretty upset. It couldn’t all be over his name. So, what was it? Maybe it’s because she wore those shoes that make him look short?
She has never been good at guessing. Any time she tried, her mind embarked on a journey down a dark hole from which she could only escape after two nights with Kyle.
She likes Royal. He is funny, smart, and cute. He doesn’t look all that smart, but he is.
He is skinny. She doesn’t fancy skinny men. She has nothing against them, but, how to put it? They do nothing for her daddy issues.
But, otherwise, Royal is great. He’s already asked her out a couple of times. She can see how easy it would be to be with him. They connect. Their conversations are smooth and unforced. He makes her laugh and she him. They would do fantastic.
That is until her demons come out to play. She is too out of sync for such a normal man. She thrives better amid chaos. Enough chaos that her demons look like pet chihuahuas.
Plus, Royal is young. Young and not-yet-rich. She can see he has potential. In a few years, he will be successful. But she can’t wait. She has already seen poverty. Felt its bitter metal taste in her mouth. She can still taste it every time she looks back in her mind a few years.
No, she couldn’t live in anything but abundance. Maybe that’s why she likes Kyle. He is 27 and thriving. She can dance salsa in his living room. Not that Kyle would appreciate it, but it is nice to have the option.
She wasn’t born into a poor home. Her family had been the envy of the neighborhood those first 12 years of her life. When he left them, he took everything with him. He and his mistress had collected item after item from their once lovely home.
Of course, it didn’t help that his mistress was someone she knew. Knew too well, in her opinion.
But that was a story for another day. She could see Kyle’s home in the distance.
Please drop me here
I’ll just call Royal in the morning.